Does your youngster have ambitions to become an MMO raider? As a seasoned gamer yourself, you may find it hard to believe that your kids are already old enough to be chomping at the bit to battle the same bosses, to pore over the same strategies, to put themselves through the same scheduling wringer that you do. That's the thing about kids, though -- they want to tackle the cool stuff just like you do, especially if that's what they've grown up watching you raid.
Is MMO raiding appropriate for your older child or teen? That's a matter only a parent can decide. The answer will be different from child to child, age to age and family to family. The best analogy I can offer is to treat this like a virtual team sport. Make sure your youngster has the bandwidth to support adding another focused activity to his schedule; from there, you'll want to help him choose the right team with a solid coach and assistants, supportive teammates and an age-appropriate challenge rating and social environment. A little direction from a tuned-in, gaming-savvy parent can help many young wannabe raiders realize their ambitions in an age-appropriate, balanced and enjoyable way.
How young is too young? Let's get a taste for how raiding among the younger set can be viable with an interview with the mother of Zeshon, an 11-year-old World of Warcraft player who began serious raiding in his parents' guild at the age of 10. Under the protective wing of his parents, Zeshon managed to become a regular DPS sub in his guild's progression raids while still getting his homework done and to bed on time. It's that balance (and the close supervision of his parents, plus a guild that was willing to offer a child-friendly environment) that made raiding work for Zeshon. Let's keep looking at ways to strike that balance for your own kids.
Consider keeping things in the family. Especially for younger raiders-to-be, the simplest way to make sure things stay on the rails is to raid together as a family. Whether you build a small group of your own friends and family or join a larger, family-friendly guild, there's a lot to be said about the possibilities of playing along with your kids. This is your chance to model cooperation, teach good manners, instill respect, nurture self-sufficiency and computer skills, build confidence and even encourage appropriate in-game risk and failure in order to encourage problem-solving, persistence and pride. When you think about all those potential benefits, the "risks" of letting your kids raid seem much more able to be reasonably managed.
Find the right team. If you think your teen is ready to stretch his wings on his own, it's up to you to help make sure he finds the right guild. Obviously, a group of mostly high schoolers or college kids may get a little too wild for your tastes – but conversely, a guild of supposedly "responsible" adults isn't always the answer, either. In all too many "mature" guilds, game time means time to let it all hang out: raunchy jokes, colorful language, pent-up rage, you name it. If you're looking for a place your teen can tuck in without being exposed to rough language, a family-friendly guild that encourages kids to play is the ticket.
Help kids keep their raiding commitment and other game time in balance. It's all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the raiding lifestyle: the forums chatter, researching strats, non-raiding nights spent farming and shoring up weaker gear – and of course, raid nights themselves. If you'll approach raiding with all the commitment of any team activity, you'll be in the right mindset. Your goal is to help your kids have time to find the time they need to excel while balancing raiding commitments with the rest of their lives. Help kids learn to take care of responsibilities first. Offer plenty of leisure-time alternatives to explore. Set an active, engaged, intellectually curious example in your own personal time.
How should you handle a kid who's literally begging for more? If your teen's asking for more time than you think the situation merits, perhaps it's time to let him take the responsibility for convincing you that he can handle it. Hand him our checklist on how to lobby your parents for more gaming time and see what he's able to turn up.
Parental controls can help keep a handle on the details. You'll probably prefer direct supervision for your gaming child, but teens (especially older ones) may be able to handle gaming later at night than you can manage to keep your eyes open. Parental controls can be helpful for those times when you're not right there. Some parents have no use for them, preferring to monitor their children personally. They feel that parental controls represent an undesirable, arbitrary type of censorship. Some parents feel that kids are going to see and do what they're going to see and do eventually, anyway -- so why postpone the inevitable? Other families, though, find that having parental control settings take the heat cuts down on confrontations over game content and log-out times. For parents who can't always or don't want to be there to supervise every moment of their children's gaming, controls help ensure compliance with family gaming rules.
Know when enough is enough. How much gaming is simply too much? If you worry that perhaps your decision to open the door into the world of raiding may have sucked your child a little deeper than you'd anticipated, these questions can help you pinpoint problem patterns. Admittedly, this is a lengthy list – but every child is different, and one size absolutely does not fit all. Few kids will struggle with all or even most of these issues. Look for changes that seem remarkable for your child.
Most of all, stay "logged in" to your child's gaming interests and activities. As the parent of a young MMO player, your goal is to remain figuratively logged in to whatever he's doing. There's no AFKing when it comes to parenting.
All of us parents realize that we need to stay involved in our children's extracurricular hobbies. We want to know what they're doing, whom they're with, whether they're safe, whether they're enjoying themselves, if they're learning life-enriching lessons, if they're enjoying some good, old-fashioned fun. What you might not have considered, though, is that raiding for a young gamer deserves the same level of scrutiny and support as, say, his team sports or violin lessons. Whatever captivates your child's imagination should also attract your parental periscope.
We're not suggesting that you need to declare yourself the official chaperone for every raid, every farming session and every Vent chat that comes along. Frankly, no gamer wants or needs a hall monitor. But young raiders do need your boundaries, your guidance, your feedback, your support -- all the same things you'd bring to the other team activities that inspire their enthusiasm. Stop by the family computer to watch the big new boss attempt. Don't schedule over the top of the night when your daughter is slotted to be one of the main tanks. Stay tuned in to what's going on in your raider's life, and you'll be much more likely to know if something isn't going as well as it should. Go, Team Raiders!